Showing posts with label English. Show all posts
Showing posts with label English. Show all posts

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Thinking Critically About the News

Using topical issues to help students learn to think critically is another way we prepare our students for the future.



A good example of this approach was used recently in our Grade 10 English class. Students examined online articles about racism and homelessness and worked in small groups to build the skills needed to determine which stories were real and which were “fake.” Students then assessed their learning by viewing a TedX Talk by Morgan Campbell called “Race, Sports, and Telling True Stories.” Since this class is co-taught, students had ample opportunity for individual clarification from teachers.



Being able to read and think critically is a vital skill if students hope to participate meaningfully in civic life and navigate successfully the growing body of online content that is presented as truth.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Conflict, Characterization, and Co-Teaching

After a full year in our expanded facilities, teachers are accustomed to the different uses of their Learning Communities. Here is one example of how co-teaching is enhanced by the resources available in the space. 

Co-teaching in our learning community rooms offers numerous ways for teachers to engage students. In this example, Grade 10 English teachers Johanna Liburd and Laura Vhalos have the students explore the intersection of conflict and characterization.



To energize students, the activity begins with students out of their chairs and on their feet.



Students collaborate, share their ideas, ask interesting questions and record their thinking on movable white boards.



After working in small groups, students come together as a class to share and refine their thinking about character and conflict. Organizing classes in this way enables all students to participate and develop important communication and teamwork skills.


Thursday, 30 March 2017

Disaster DIY

After reading a book about a natural disaster, students teamed up to help their novel's
main character survive his or her ordeal.

Your town has just been devastated by a massive earthquake. The phone lines are dead, there’s no running water and supplies are running out fast. All you have is a few household objects and your ingenuity. How do you make it out alive?

Our Grade 7 classes tackled this tough question through a week-long integration project from March 6-10. After reading one of three books by Canadian YA novelist Eric Walters about a natural disaster - an earthquake, a tsunami or a flood - students teamed up to help their novel’s main character survive his or her ordeal.

To be successful, students had to draw on knowledge from four core subjects:

  • Science: Students invented a survival device that helped the characters purify drinking water, keep warm and dry or signal for help.

  • Math: Students used mathematical reasoning to predict how long the device will help the character survive until assistance arrives. (One group created a giant air bubble and did detailed calculations to determine how long that oxygen would last!)

  • Social Studies: Students needed to understand the specific characteristics of the area where the disaster took place, and to understand how humans acquire, manage and use natural resources based on their environment..

  • English: Students produced an oral or written explanation of how their survival device works, as well as a series of journal entries written from the perspective of their novel’s main character.

Students used a design thinking approach throughout this process: understanding what the end user needs, making sense of their research and resources and generating ideas and prototypes. By using design thinking, students learn that the process of trial and error is a good way to solve problems.


To work collaboratively students need space. Our learning community classrooms are not
only spacious but allow lots of flexibility.


What Did Students Invent?


Students’ creativity shone through in the wonderful use they made of their available resources. Some examples of devices include:

  • A water purifier made from a plastic bottle, coffee filters, curtains, sticks and a plastic bag
  • A giant “Help” sign made from glow sticks
  • A canopied raft made from debris and a tarp


How Did Our Expanded Building Support This Integrated Project?


To work collaboratively students need space: ample room to meet in small groups, spread out their materials and build their prototypes. Our learning community rooms fit the bill perfectly: they’re not only spacious, but their flexible furnishings allowed students to configure the room in the way that worked best for them. Our teachers also had plenty of space to circulate through the room and support teams as needed during work periods.

Our performance theatre also played a key role in the project. Its drop-down screen allowed the Grade 7s to view multimedia materials and go through short lessons as a large group. When it was time to present their projects, the theatre provided an ideal venue for this activity.


When it was time for Grade 7 students to present their finished prototypes, our
performance theatre provided an ideal venue.


Student Feedback


What did students like most about this project? Here’s what a few of them had to say:

“I liked that the whole week was connected to one main idea. I was really proud of our final product, because it worked and we had a clear view to why we made it.”

“I enjoyed using different ideas to help my character and put myself in the character's shoes.”

“I enjoyed going to different rooms and learning about survival if you were caught in an earthquake.”

“I’m proud of the final product because even though we disagreed at the beginning, we came together and worked through it, resulting in an awesome prototype.”

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

WATCH: Campbell River Town Hall

On November 24, we took you behind the scenes of our Campbell River Town Hall Project. Supported by our new Learning Communities, the project integrated elements of English and social studies for Grade 7 students.

What did this project look like in action? See for yourself in the video below!

Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Campbell River Town Hall: An Integrated Project

Integrated projects encourage students to explore big ideas in greater depth.

Last year, Greenwood piloted the use of integrated learning experiences for students in Grades 7 and 8. These week-long projects incorporated key concepts from English, math, science and social studies, and encouraged students to explore big ideas in greater depth.

Our new Learning Communities, coupled with the use of blocked scheduling, allow us to find even more ways to integrate subjects together. Greenwood teachers recently used the back-to-back scheduling of Grade 7 English and Grade 7 Social Studies to create a project touching on concepts and skills from both subjects.

The Project


In the town of Campbell River, B.C. (the salmon capital of the world), concerns have been raised about the issue of overfishing. Members of the community disagree about whether fishing should continue. As a result, the mayor of Campbell River has convened a town hall to listen to the various viewpoints of those affected by the fishing industry. Based on their presentations, the B.C. Supreme Court will decide whether or not salmon fishing will continue.

Each student was assigned the perspective of someone for or against the fishing industry - whether it was a fish farmer, a government official, an environmentalist or a member of a local Indigenous community. Over the course of two weeks’ worth of classes, students worked in groups to explore their perspective using a number of resources, and to develop a presentation explaining their viewpoint. Each student then presented to their classmates and to the Supreme Court, who made a ruling on whether the fishing industry would continue.

Students were assessed for their content in social studies, and for structural writing and oral presentation skills in English. Each student was individually assessed on their presentation.

How Our Spaces Supported the Project


This large Learning Community, coupled with two smaller classrooms, provided
ample room for students to spread out according to their area of exploration.

These two classes had the use of three rooms - one large Learning Community and two smaller classrooms - to prepare their presentations. These spaces allowed students to break into groups according to their area of exploration, and to work with students from other classes. “At this age and stage, social mixing is really critical,” says English teacher Lisa West.

Social studies teacher Will Salvarinas agrees. “The students really enjoyed working with people from other classes and coming together to create passionate arguments in support of their assigned roles,” he says. “It built a lot of camaraderie between students.”


How Did It Go?


“The project was really well-received by the students,” Lisa says. “What really came through in their unit reflections was that it allowed them to reflect on not only their learning, but on their contributions as a learner in the classroom.”

Will highlighted the project’s connection to a real-world issue. “The opportunity to make their learning relevant really engaged the students,” he says.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Integration Projects Offer a New Take on Culminating Activities

Final evaluations are fast approaching, and the Grade 7 & 8 Integration Team is hard at work developing a second round of interdisciplinary integration projects. Each grade will participate in a four-day task designed to provide an authentic opportunity to apply a year’s worth of subject knowledge and skills to a real-world problem. (Read about the first Grade 7 and Grade 8 Integration Projects.)


As subject teachers, we have always been encouraged to create culminating tasks that would have students play a role and apply their subject knowledge to make real-world decisions. These integration projects are a perfect opportunity to take these individual subject role-playing tasks to the next level.

This second round of integration projects are designed to primarily assess skills and learning from the year, rather than teach new content. The development of these culminating integration projects therefore present their own unique set of strengths and challenges. There is more time within the schedule for students to focus in on their task, since less time is allotted to teacher-facilitated instruction. 


The actual project design has been more challenging this second time around. Our goal is to develop an authentic problem that requires a year’s worth of subject knowledge and skills, touching upon essential learning from at least four different courses. All of this while remembering, of course, that the problem-solvers are Grade 7 and 8 students - not yet ready to take on the complex problems that actually do require this level of integration. “Please draw upon your understanding of science, math, social studies and English to solve the problems in the Middle East.”

As teachers, it is causing us to reflect upon the curriculum in our own individual subjects in a new way. We are asking ourselves questions such as “If it is difficult to find a place for a particular concept or skill within a real-world, integrated project, how essential is it to begin with?”.

As we reach the final stretch, we are excited to see these culminating projects in action.This first year of Grade 7 and 8 projects have certainly be making all of us, teachers and student alike, think and reflect in new directions.

Samantha Moser
Grade 8 Science Teacher

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Choose Your Own Adventure

The Grade 12 English and Grade 12 AP English classes have now reached a point in the year in which their learning must be divided according to their own learning needs. Both classes are focused on the skill of critical thinking yet are moving through classroom activities differently because of separate course goals. Ultimately, we have the same goal which is to prepare the students to be critical thinkers and clear communicators as they move on into the world beyond Greenwood.

The AP course necessitates preparation for the standardized exam and these students are well engaged in in-depth analysis of a breadth of poetry spanning the centuries.

Node Chairs allow students and teachers
to easily rearrange the room based on
learning needs.
Students in the Grade 12 course are currently working on an integrated research paper connecting to their learning in another course. Certain students have also chosen to pursue research topics according to their own interests or subjects of focus for next year. The unit includes a trip to the Toronto Reference Library for an orientation tour as well as a workshop on the research process to help prepare students for future research projects in various institutes of higher learning.

As teachers, we realized that there are times when it is necessary to divide according to course priorities. We have found the flexible learning space allows us to do this. We use a moveable wall for visible separation and the Node Chairs provide easy room arrangements.

Within the classroom, you will find a very calm atmosphere with short lessons and plenty of quiet independent work time. Having two teachers allows us plenty of possible one-on-one conference time and facilitates the independent personalized atmosphere that is desired.

Caley Blyth
English Subject Team Leader

Stephanie Martino
English Teacher

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Grade 7 Integrated Project: Designing for Disaster


Shannon, Megan and Taylor with
their disaster survival prototype.
In March, Grade 7 students were challenged to ‘Design for Disaster’. The students’ goal was to use their scientific knowledge and understanding of resources to design a device that would allow their literary character to survive a natural disaster.

In the process of completing their prototypes, students were challenged to integrate subject knowledge, think creatively and develop their teamwork skills.

Students had the opportunity to create diverse products that covered several curriculum expectations. Project tasks were designed to provide appropriate structure, while being open ended to foster critical thinking and capture student interest. Students could choose how they demonstrated their design process, what they built, what supplies they used and even where they worked.

Choice served to empower our students’ thinking and creativity. Taylor Davis ('21) commented that “getting to be creative and build things without a written plan pre-given” was really rewarding. While reflecting on connecting her school subjects in one project, Zoe Starnino ('21) stated that she “really liked doing all of the science and math parts because it was kind of like you were solving a mystery, or going on an adventure, and you just kept discovering all these things”.

Learning should go beyond curriculum. A collaborative approach to design thinking was used throughout the week. This allowed students to learn from each other, as well as problem solve in a team.

Working in teams was a highlight for many of the students. Toby Bower ('21) stated that “sometimes we didn’t agree”, but as the project progressed they enjoyed  “coming together as a group”. Callum Thomson ('21) thought “it was really fun working with the same people. Splitting the jobs up worked really well for us because we got the work done quickly.”

Students experienced successes and failures throughout the week. While no two groups took the same path, all students realized their design goals in creating final products they were proud of.

Students and teachers are looking forward to the second Grade 7 Integration Project in June!

Elysia Jellema & Erin Klassen
Grade 7 & 8 Teachers

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Leveraging Technology to Monitor Student Learning & Streamline Assessment

Hapara allowed teachers to reinforce
positive behaviour and promote
digital citizenship through encouraging
collaborationon shared documents.
In December, Grade 8 students immersed themselves in Toronto City Council business and municipal politics with proposals to improve City of Toronto drinking water treatment. We were able to leverage Hapara, an online education platform, throughout the project to help improve student learning and streamline teacher assessment.

Throughout the learning process we shared templates and resources with students in their Integrated Project Folders on Hapara. Students used these same folders to develop their ideas and create their proposals. All Grade 8 Teachers had access to the folders and we could monitor individual progress to prompt deeper learning and identify students who required additional support. This technology also allowed us to reinforce positive individual and group behaviour, and promote digital citizenship through the collaboration process with shared documents.

Once the Grade 8 students completed their final proposals to the City of Toronto and presented their ideas to City Council, the integrated project was complete. Each student’s proposal included curriculum expectations for mathematics, English, Canadian Social Studies and science. Teachers worked together to mark the final products. Hapara significantly streamlined the assessment process as teachers from different disciplines could efficiently access students’ products to mark the appropriate curriculum expectations.

In the integrated project, students created products that examined a social issue with improved breadth and depth by looking with different subject perspectives. The careful design and implementation allowed curriculum expectations from four disciplines to be effectively addressed. Using technology, we were able to help ensure each student was supported and challenged throughout the process, and student products could be efficiently evaluated.

Elysia Jellema
Grade 7 & 8 Math and Science Teacher

Erin Klassen
Grade 7 & 8 Math and Learning Strategies Teacher

Want to read more about our Grade 8 Integrated Project? Read a student's perspective and a teacher's perspective.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Thinking Deeply About (And Along With) Hamlet

The combined ENG4U/ENG4UO course in
our flex classroom..takes advantage of flexible
groups and space.
It’s post-Winter Break for students in Grade 12 English, and that means it’s time to talk about Hamlet.  In both the university preparation (4U) and Advanced Placement (AP) streams, students are examining the language of Shakespeare’s most popular play. The focus of this unit is to think about the play’s big questions--who can we trust, what is justice, are we defined by our actions or by our intentions--while also working on close reading skills to more fully appreciate the intricacy of the language.

The combined ENG4U/ENG4UO course in our flex classroom, room 207, takes advantage of flexible groups and space with class discussions that allow for a range of opinions matching the number of students in the room. When examining questions of morality or conscience, like whether or not Claudius is a good king (not person), diversity of thought allows students to be challenged and confronted by other points of view. Recapping an act of the play via Twitter summary also sparks an unspoken creativity contest to see who is most masterful in their use of hashtags.

The flexible space also allows for differentiation in terms of level of challenge when performing a close text analysis on passages of the play. After a common review of literary devices and lesson on how to notice aspects of language in a text, the class splits into groups to learn how to effectively communicate about the passage. The AP students (as well as any students who opt in from the 4U class) examine a more intricate way to organize an essay, while the rest of the class gets to work applying a more traditional method to the complex ideas and language in front of them. In either option, the depth of thought expectation is the same, so all students must strive for the complexity and insight befitting Shakespeare’s most notorious thinker.

Caley Blyth
English Subject Team Leader

Stephanie Martino
English Teacher

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Grade 8 Integration Project: The Student Perspective

Group work was a major component
of the Integration Project.
Last week, teacher Kathryn Connelly shared her thoughts on our Grade 8 Integration Project. This week, Grade 8 student Graham Palmert provides his perspective on the same project.

During the week before the December holidays, the Grade 8 students were involved in an Integration project which drew from our four core subjects; math, English, science and social studies.

Each class contributed to a different aspect of the project. The beginning of the project was related to science and social studies. We had to pick substances or elements, such as fluoride or lead, and explain:

  • How the substance gets into our water system,
  • How it affects us, and
  • Ways to solve this issue. 

For English we wrote a final proposal, which outlined the research behind the issue we chose, how the issue affects humans, and potential solutions.

In relation to math, we completed a data analysis.

All of the subjects blended really well together and we required knowledge from all of them, such as:

  • Knowing the water system,
  • Taking data and turning them into graphs, and 
  • Knowing human settlement patterns. 

Each group chose their own topic to explore, such as how microbeads affect the water systems in Toronto. My group, which included Owen Bates and Jackson Cowie, learned about where lead comes from, how it affects us, and solutions to solve the problem of lead in our water system.

The two most astonishing facts that we learned were:

  1. Next year, the World Health Organization estimates that 143,000 people will die from lead poisoning.
  2. Lead pipes themselves elevate the risk of health issues for Toronto 35,000 households.

This project was a change from a regular classroom that provided different challenges. One challenge we faced was balancing working in a group, and dividing up how much each person had to do. The project itself was more challenging than the regular classroom work we are used to because we had to use knowledge from all four subjects instead of just one.  It was also different than a classroom because the whole week we worked in small groups, and I usually do not have class with some of my group members.

The final product had two different components:

  1. A proposal on what the problem was and how we can fix it. 
  2. A visual component. Our group decided to make a Google slides presentation on how lead affects us. Other groups used videos or poster boards. 

Upon completing the project, we showed our work to a Toronto city councilor, Jaye Robinson. Hopefully she will consider our ideas and make our water cleaner.

This was an interesting week for me as a student, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Take aways from the week were that Toronto’s water isn’t as clean as everyone thinks it is, and that working in a group requires a lot of patience.

Even though it was difficult, at the end, I think we all felt rewarded for the hard work that we had accomplished.

Graham Palmert
Grade 8 Student

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Grade 8 Integration Project: The Teacher Perspective

This December, Greenwood piloted a unique project for Grade 8 students: an integration task involving math, science, social studies and English components. This problem-based learning activity requiring the students to look at a water issue in the city of Toronto and examine how this issue has either impacted human settlement OR is impacted by human settlement.

How did this project go? Teacher Kathryn Connelly shares her thoughts. Next week, we'll bring you a student perspective on the same project.

The Grade 8 Integration project took flight on the week of December 14-17, 2015, with great success!

The Project


Students` visual and verbal presentations
highlighted their proposed solutions for
the water issue they studied.
The students were introduced to the project by going on a field trip to the RC Harris Water Treatment Plant. They took a tour of the facility and learned about where our water comes from, how it is treated, and what Toronto’s challenges are in terms of water treatment.

Back at school, the students were placed into small groups and were presented with a problem statement: How does human settlement impact the physical environment and sustainability of water resources in Toronto? What are possible solutions to this problem?

The Process


In small working groups, the students chose from a variety of topics directly related to the science, social studies, math and English curricula. In teams, the students researched, summarized and identified the connection between the science behind water quality issues in Toronto and how human settlements have impacted these issues.

The students were engaged and energized through their investigation and new knowledge of the relevance of water issues in Toronto, and worked collaboratively to think critically about their research and data, while also thinking of potential solutions to their chosen issue. The ideas that the students came up with were innovative and inventive. Throughout the collaborative process, the students were extremely engaged and active problem solvers. They worked well within their groups, divided the work effectively, and worked together to find the most relevant research and data. As a teacher, it was most impressive to observe their minds at work!

The Presentation


As a group, the students created a visual component that reflected each of their written proposals, which were completed individually. The goal of the project was exhibited through the presentations, as the students visually and verbally presented upon the history behind their issue, their analysis of the present situation and predictions of future trends of their issue, as well as the possible solutions/recommendations.

On the last day of the project, Toronto City Councillor, Jaye Robinson, listened to each group passionately present their discoveries and solutions to Toronto’s water quality issues.

Overall, it was an extremely successful integration project which the Grade 8 students embraced with open arms. Through a problem-based approach to the project, the learning became wholly student-centered, which enabled the students to work to their full potential. This project enabled the Grade 8 students to embark on a different type of learning than they were used to, allowing for more flexible and innovative thinking. The students thrived, showing them that hard work and dedication to a relevant issue leads to a heightened sense of accomplishment.

The project also gave the team of integration teachers an opportunity to communicate and collaborate outside the classroom walls, which was enriching and energizing. The first integration project helped solidify the value of student-centered learning, which will continue to be a focal point in future Grade 7 & 8 integration projects.

Kathryn Connelly
English & Learning Strategies Teacher

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Planning for an Enriching and Flexible Senior English Program

Our focus during Greenwood’s Summer Institute was to give students in the Grade 12 University Preparation English course (ENG4U) the opportunity to participate in aspects of the Advanced Placement (AP or ENG4UO) program, and potentially write the AP Literature exam. Combining the programs also broadens the range of perspectives, which is critical in the study of English.

ENG4U Class Photo
Students in both classes discuss The Great 
Gatsby together, broadening the points 
of view in the conversation.
We began the planning of this program by looking at the skills and texts of each course to see where they fit together. Both courses follow the Ontario curriculum; however, elements of the AP exam require students to study a larger scope of historic literature. 

We then aligned the two courses by focusing on the study of two texts that are read at the same time in both courses: The Great Gatsby and Hamlet.

We also looked at ways to use different texts but teach the same skills. For example, while the ENG4U students analyzed short stories, the AP students focused on novels, but all students participated in seminar-style discussion groups. 

In organizing instruction, we designed a daily agenda where students can see their learning plan and choices for each class. Ideally, ENG4U students will see opportunities for challenge and will attempt AP content. Already, many students in the combined class elected to listen to the lecture on writing a personal essay, an approach usually reserved for students in AP English. 

Here are some examples of the class’s daily schedule:

















Caley Blyth
Subject Team Leader, English

Stephanie Martino
English Teacher